Finding text editors that properly support the input and navigation of various scripts’ Unicode-encoded text is no longer as rare as it used to be. Unicode has been well-established for a long time as the standard for encoding all of the world’s languages. However, when it comes to text editors specifically for programmers (IDEs), ironically, the situation is pretty bad. It looks like in Visual Studio Code’s most recent update, they finally have proper support for input and navigation of abugida scripts, or as they’re alternatively called, alphasyllabaries. The animated picture in the VS Code update page shows someone typing and navigating Tamil text, but the change should actually apply to several languages across East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
A friend of mine has just finished a novel / book of interlinked stories in which the Tamil experience is an important factor. It begins with an Eelam Tamil family grieving about the end of the war in Jersey and connects stories across time/place. There’s also a chapter/story called “The Office of Missing Persons,” which directly deals with disappearances. The book has gotten really positive reviews from some well-known writers in the literary world. It’s coming out in a month, available on pre-order (links below).
By now, I have visited enough Tamil & other South Indian restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area to have some favorites (and not-so-favorites). Here are my favorites, “honorable mentions”, footnotes, and disclaimers. Enjoy!
The last 18 months have been eventful even if my updates have been sparse. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things that I’ve been up to:
- Published a blog post on the Google Open Source blog regarding clj-thamil (Thamil NLP and macros for “multi-lingual” Clojure) and clojure-turtle (Logo in Clojure) (Mar. 2016)
- Attended Clojure/West 2016 in Seattle and gave an Unsession presentation called “Keeping Simple Things Simple”. The conference was as rewarding for the people I got to meet as it was for the talks and ideas that I learned, which is saying something for a Clojure conference. (Apr. 2016)
- Volunteered with other people from Nest at the Brothers Code event in Oakland by the Hidden Genius Project to get Black male youth in the Bay Area interested in tech. (Dec. 2016)
- Attended the GCP Next conference in SF (Mar. 2017). I enjoyed the conference, especially the festive exhibits and some of the conversations with Google employees.
- Attended Clojure/West 2017 in Portland. The conference was great, and it was probably the first time where I attended the “hallway track” for a majority of the time. (Apr. 2017)
- I got quoted in a GCP Dataflow blog post on Dataflow Shuffle. (June 2017)
- Presented (via paper and slides) about prefix trees and other topics for Tamil / Indic Unicode at the Tamil Internet Conference in Toronto (Aug. 2017)
- Attended Clojure/conj 2017 in Baltimore and co-presented with Tim Pratley “Learning Clojure through Logo”. I also manned the booth for Nest. It was a great time talking with people, old friends and new, and seeing a great Rich Hickey talk in person for once. The talk introduced Power Turtle (github proj page), lein-cban, and cban. More work to be done on Power Turtle. (Oct. 2017)
- Volunteered again with the Nest team at the Brothers Code event by Hidden Genius Project. Displayed Power Turtle along with copies of this handout. (Dec. 2017)
Happy New Year, and hoping that 2018 is a good year!
The Tamil Internet Conference for 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada just concluded. I presented a more in-depth explanation of my previous post on prefix trees along with specific examples of how I have used them.
Here is the full paper that I submitted for the conference proceedings, entitled “Prefix Trees (Tries) for Tamil Language Processing”. Here is the slide deck for the presentation I gave in the conference.
The following is the full text of the paper from the link above:
Thamil computing has made a lot of progress in the past 10-20 years. Much of the work that has reached the public has been in the areas of fonts/rendering and input methods. Thanks to the continuing efforts in these areas, most of those issues have been solved, Thamil text has standardized on a single character set (Unicode), and we have nice fonts and input methods for major operating systems and mobile devices. The new environment has enabled the widespread creation and consumption of digital content in Thamil.
Now, the next set of problems to solve are handling Thamil text that is written using the Unicode character set. Unicode is designed for all languages’ fonts to standardize, but the slight cost to Thamil language processing has been its complexity. But the challenges can be handled easily by representing the data in a suitable data structure, which in this case is a prefix tree (or “trie”).
I’m excited to be selected as a speaker at the upcoming Clojure/West 2015 conference next month in Portland! I’ll be talking on how Clojure can be used to program in other human languages (other than English). There are interesting opportunities related to diversity and access. I will be drawing on my experiences with programming in/for Thamil in the clj-thamil library. And I’ll see what other interesting, related ideas I can slip in (turtles that draw?)… and put a bird on them.
Or: A clear example of what macros can do
I started working on a library called clj-thamil that I envision as a general-purpose library for Thamil language computing (ex: mobile & web input method), but a slight excursion in that work has led me to some very deep, intriguing ideas — some of which are technical, and some of which are socio-cultural. But they all fit together in my mind — Clojure, macros, opportunity and diversity (in computing), and the non English-speaking world.
I think that the implications are things that we should all think about. But if nothing else, hopefully you can read this account and understand something about macros — the kind of power they uniquely provide and at least good one use case where they are necessary.